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Lawmakers impeach Renato Corona

MANILA – Legislators who are allies of President Benigno Aquino III Monday night moved to begin the impeachment process against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

A total of 188 representatives signed an impeachment complaint against Corona for alleged betrayal of public trust, violation of the Constitution and graft and corruption.

And in a very quick manner, House leaders ordered the complaint last night to be immediately transmitted to the Senate for trial.

Corona is the third official to be recently impeached. The first was former President Joseph Estrada, who was impeached in 2000 and deposed the next year while still under trial by the Senate. The second was former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who resigned days before her Senate trial in 2011.

The complaint alleges that Corona also violated the Constitution, “by failing to meet and observe the stringent standards… of competence, integrity, probity and independence in allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel… (and) in creating an excessive entanglement with Mrs. Arroyo through her appointment of his wife to office; and in discussing with litigants regarding cases pending before the Supreme Court.”

The complaint added that the chief justice betrayed the public trust by manifesting partiality in the grant of a temporary restraining order “in favor” of Mrs. Arroyo and her husband “to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice.”

As for the impeachment offense of graft and corruption, the complaint accuses Corona of allegedly failing and refusing to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary collections.

The complaint also cited the status quo ante order the SC issued against the House when the latter was in the process of impeaching Gutierrez. The House further cited the High Court’s flip-flopping decisions on the conversion of 16 towns into cities and Dinagat Island into a province.

Lawmakers noted the Supreme Court’s interventions paved the way for the creation of the second district of Camarines Sur to accommodate Mrs. Arroyo’s son Dato.

The majority of signatories were members of the LP, Nationalist People’s Coalition, National Unity Party, and party-list groups.

Only one-third of House members are required to approve the motion to impeach the official. When the charges have been submitted to the Senate, selected members of the House of Representatives act as the prosecutors and the Senators act as judges with the Senate President presiding over the proceedings.

When a President is on trial as in the case of Estrada, the Chief Justice jointly presides with the Senate President.

To convict the official in question requires that a minimum of two-thirds of the Senate vote in favor of conviction. If an impeachment attempt is unsuccessful or the official is acquitted, no new cases can be filed against that impeachable official for at least one full year.